Year: 2020 Source: medRxiv. (2020).10.06.20207530; doi: SIEC No: 20200800

Background: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented public health crisis, but its effect on suicide deaths is little understood. Method: We analyzed data from monthly suicide statistics between January 2017 and August 2020 and online surveys on mental health among the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Results: Compared to the last three years (2017-2019), the number of suicide deaths was lower during the initial phase of the pandemic but subsequently exceeded the past trend. By August 2020, the total number of suicides was 7.72% higher than the average number of suicides in the same month of the previous three years. The largest increase was found in suicides by young women (less than 40 years of age), with a 63.1% increase in August 2020 compared to the same month in the past three years. The number of suicides among students and housekeepers in summer months was notably larger in 2020. The survey data indicated that the status of mental health among young women was worse than that of women in other age groups. In addition, young female workers were more likely to have experienced a job or income loss in recent months compared to any other groups, suggesting adverse economic conditions surrounding some of these young female workers. Conclusion: Our results strongly indicate that continuous monitoring of mental health, particularly that of the most vulnerable populations identified in this study, and appropriate suicide prevention efforts are necessary during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.